Springfield, Ohio — While they didn't change the world in a day, the industrious group of Wittenberg University students that accompanied Associate Professor of English Rick Incorvati to the state capitol in nearby Columbus on April 22 felt good about the experience of lobbying government leaders on a variety of environmental issues.
The students were in the statehouse as part of an Earth Week event called Lobby Day, which was organized by the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC). The students listened to an address by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and other state legislators, learned about key initiatives currently being considered by Ohio lawmakers, and met with local representatives and senators on these issues.
Megan Hentges, class of 2010 from Perrysburg, Ohio, has spearheaded a variety of environmental initiatives on Wittenberg's campus. She said the lobbying effort was a good learning experience.
"I had never done any lobbying before, so I did not really know what to expect," Hentges said. "I was in a group with people from around my hometown, and we met with assistants for representatives from our area. All of the people we met with were supportive of the legislation we were presenting with OEC, and people were able to talk about other issues if they had any. I think it was a good experience because I learned more about current Ohio legislation and about the Ohio government system."
A piece of legislation known as Sub Senate Bill 221, which creates benchmarks for energy efficiency, requires Ohio utilities to draw at least 12.5 percent of the state's energy from renewable sources by 2025 and puts price controls on energy costs, passed on the day of the Wittenberg group's visit. Two other initiatives – the Clean Ohio Fund and the Great Lakes Compact – were discussed at length during the day. Both potential items have been stalled in the legislature for various reasons.
A summary report Incorvati provided to those interested around campus offered some facts of interest Lobby Day participants learned. They included the fact that coal burned in energy plants, not exhaust from automobiles, is the single greatest producer of greenhouse gases; most of the coal burned for energy in Ohio comes from other areas of the country; and per person energy consumption continues to rise, in part thanks to cell phones, personal computers and other modern conveniences.
In all, it was a good starting point for Hentges and her classmates, including Natalie Cox, class of 2011 from Columbus, Ohio, Karen Stover, class of 2010 from Enon, Ohio, Jessie Voors, class of 2011 from Fort Wayne, Ind., Erik Werstler, class of 2011 from Portland, Ore., J.P. Jackson, class of 2010 from Solvang, Calif., Matt Wickiser, class of 2010 from Hilliard, Ohio, and Anna Sprecker, class of 2011 from Cincinnati, Ohio.
"It was nice to meet other people that are working on environmental issues, and it was a great opportunity to do some networking," Hentges said. "It was also reassuring to know that the legislators are willing to listen to us, and we were often encouraged to set up meetings with our representatives when they are in the district. I would have liked to meet our representatives and not just their staff, but it was still a great experience."
Incorvati said the experience Lobby Day experience is a positive educational one for students.
"I have found lobby days to be tremendously rewarding experiences," he said. "My primary hope is that this lobby day experience will have some ripple effects in these students for many years to come."
Written By: Ryan Maurer